Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

Teaching students how to effectively use spreadsheets and databases is an integral part of using technology in the classroom. Students, who are as young as 4-5, are capable of learning early word processing skills. In order for students to be successful in using spreadsheets, they must exhibit keyboarding skills. Without being able to keyboard efficiently, the experience will be less than positive or productive. “Some educators feel that students will never become really productive on the computer until they learn 10-finger keyboarding” (Robyler & Doering, 2013). Not only do educators need students to be proficient at keyboarding, they must also be able to use it as an authentic writing tool. “The research encourages us to understand how well children adapt to the keyboard as a writing tool. Ideally, the control this tool might offer over the mechanics of writing could permit cognitive resources to be redirected into the creative work of constructing content” according to Crook and Bennett, 2007.

The relative advantage of using spreadsheets and databases in the classroom is widespread. Spreadsheets provide teachers and students alike with an outstanding organizational tool.  “A spreadsheet saves valuable time by allowing teachers and students to complete essential calculations quickly” (Robyler & Doering, 2013). Besides increased productivity, spreadsheets “offer an efficient way of demonstrating numerical concepts such as multiplication and percentages and numerical applications (Robyler & Doering, 2013).  Worksheets can take statistical data and quickly convert it to a graphic illustration.  Students of all grade levels are capable of creating spreadsheets. The advantage of using spreadsheets and databases in the classrooms is that the students will be learning skills applicable in the workforce.

Although spreadsheets are typically used for mathematical applications, language arts skills can also be taught using this approach.  With a little time and patience, interactive worksheets, reading lists, Cornell notes, and flashcards can be created.  Some other ideas include:

  • Compose reading lists for summer reading or for weekly reading activities.
  • Create spelling tests for students who are absent.
  • Daily journal writing activities can be provided to the students to practice writing skills.
  • MadLib templates can be created so that students can express their creative side.

Databases are yet another highly useful tool in the classroom.  “Perhaps no other technology resource has had as great an impact on education as word processing” (Robyler & Doering, 2013).  Word processing software has streamlined the administrative side of teaching to the point of near seamless integration. Educators are able to draft professional looking documents and save the file for future use.  Documents be shared easily either electronically or if necessary, printed copies.  Students benefit from word processing software also.  Whether it is drafting and publishing a research paper, working collaboratively, or completing a reading exercise, the experience gained from word processing software is a skill necessary in the 21st century.

Regardless of how spreadsheets and databases are integrated into the classroom, the productivity associated with this software is difficult to explain.  Gone are the days balance books and adding machines.  The only barrier standing in the way for teachers to integrate spreadsheets in the classroom is the willingness to step outside of ones comfort zone and try something new.  The learning curve may be steep but the rewards are endless.

References:

Crook, C., & Bennett, L. (2007). Does using a computer disturb the organization of children’s writing?. British Journal Of Developmental Psychology, 25(2), 313-321.

Roblyer, M.D. and Doering, A.H.  (2013). Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching, (6th ed.).   Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.

AECT Standards:  1.1 Instructional Systems Design (ISD); 1.2 Message Design; 1.3 Instructional Strategies; 1.4 Learner Characteristics; 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies; 2.4 Integrated Technologies; 3.1 Media Utlization

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2 thoughts on “Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

  1. I teach second grade, and bringing up keyboarding is an important point when thinking about students in my grade level. This quote made me smile: “Some educators feel that students will never become really productive on the computer until they learn 10-finger keyboarding.” I understand the logic behind those educators’ beliefs, but I am a student that is quite speedy and productive on the computer and use only 5-6 fingers to keyboard! I know that it might take my second graders a while to complete something, but they are so excited to be creating something on a computer that it doesn’t hinder their productivity. They might be slower with keyboarding but they are still productive. There are voice recognition tools that students can use if keyboarding is a serious challenge.

    I appreciated the inclusion of language arts skills in your post. My focus for this course is integrating technology into literacy, and I spent a great deal of time this past week researching ways to use spreadsheets in that area. Creating MadLibs with them is such a creative idea I did not see! It makes me want to create one right now and share it with my second graders because it sounds like they would enjoy it so much!

  2. Catherine, you make a great point in stating that when students learn to use spreadsheets in the classroom they are learning a real-world skill. That is a point that I did not consider as I have pondered the idea of spreadsheet use. I also liked your mentioning of creating a spreadsheet to generate mad-libs. This was something I found as I was looking for examples of spreadsheet usage in language arts, and it sounds like a great way to apply their use in that content area. You have very strong content in your post, great work!

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